Yadier Molina's defensive prowess is just one of many strong suits for the St. Louis catcher in 2013.
The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is in two weeks and there’s no question that Yadier Molina and Buster Posey both make the trip to Citi Field. Both catchers are having superb years, and thus, each is making a convincing case for why he deserves the starting role in the Classic.
In the most recent fan voting tally for the National League (released today), Molina remained ahead of Posey, with 418,798 votes separating the pair. Molina leads all NL vote-getters with 5,093,645. Fans can vote through Thursday in the race that will surely be a full-out sprint to the finish line.
Posey has recently been suffering from "general tightness" in his legs according to Alex Pavlovic of mercurynews.com, so has recently seen some time at first base. This clearly hasn't affected his bat, however, as Posey was just awarded NL Player of the Week after batting .500, slugging 1.182 and getting on base 56 percent of the time in six games last week.
Coincidentally, Posey was the NL MVP in 2012, while this year Molina is the hot pick to win it given his first half. David Schoenfield of ESPN.com called Molina "a historically unique MVP candidate," while ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted this on the same day:
Bumped into a longtime scout over the weekend who had this observation: "Right now, Yadier Molina is the league MVP, hands down."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 24, 2013
Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi gave an amen to that:
In an interview with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, fellow Cardinal Matt Carpenter noted that it's humorous how unbelievable the catcher's game has been:
“We use the term ‘joke’ around here,” Carpenter said. “He’s a joke. He is that good. It’s like you just know that he’s going to do something great every night. That’s the kind of player he is—just irreplaceable. He’s a joke.”
Offensively, Posey's numbers are comparatively better, especially in the power department. His line is .319/.393/.538 with 89 hits, 48 RBI's, 12 homers, a .931 OPS and a 168 OPS+ (100 is average). This is especially impressive considering that Posey calls AT&T Park home—a stadium that heavily favors pitchers. In the NL, Posey leads catchers in OBP, RBI's, OPS and slugging percentage. He also carries an offense that has historically (and presently) been anemic:
It's been 31 innings since a Giant other than Buster Posey drove in a run. Try the ninth inning Wednesday in LA.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) June 30, 2013
Plus he does pretty things like this when it counts:
While the St. Louis bats have been anything but cold—the Cardinals lead the NL in runs scored, batting average, and slugging percentage, among other categories. And Molina is still one of the top hitters on his team. His line is .345/.387/.497 with 100 hits, 44 RBI's, six homers, an .883 OPS and a 144 OPS+. His outstanding batting average leads the NL, as do his 26 doubles.
Posey does walk more (32 free passes to Molina's 19) which explains why his OBP is more than 100 points higher than Molina's, but Molina has actually scored one more run due to St. Louis' torrid offense. In terms of WAR, the two are nearly identical: Posey sits at 3.5 and Molina at 3.4.
Catcher is a defensive position first and foremost, and the hallmark of Molina's game is the clinic he puts on behind the dish. Here's a look at the classic Molina gun-down:
So there's the obvious reason why just 28 base runners have attempted a stolen base while Yadi is catching (now there's respecting a cannon), as opposed to the 52 that have tried against Posey. Overall, Molina has thrown out 43% of those 28 whereas Posey's success rate is 21 percent this year.
Managers also consider Molina to be more lucrative as part of the battery. While Posey has played first base in 13 percent of his 78 total games, Molina has done so in five percent.
Pitchers' ERAs reflect this. With Molina catching, Cardinal arms are putting up a 3.19 in 2013, as opposed to San Francisco's 3.99 with Posey. And even though Molina has logged more innings at catcher than Posey has (650.1 to 556.2), he has fewer passed balls and wild pitches to his name (one and 14 to Posey's three and 17). It's also hard to overlook the fact that St. Louis has been churning out young, unknown arms that have been able to seamlessly integrate themselves into a premier major league rotation. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Specifically regarding the All-Star Game, the feeling in the air is that Molina should get the nod. Matthew Leach of MLB.com notes that Molina has always been significantly better in terms of backstop duties, but combined with his improved offense in 2013, he has the edge over Posey.
San Francisco and St. Louis are known to have two of the biggest fan bases in baseball, so expect a frantic last-minute surge from both sides.
All statistics are from Baseball-Reference.com.
All statistics are accurate as of July 1st.